B grades on green report card
EAGLE COUNTY – There are all kinds of rankings out there for ski resorts – reader polls for top resorts, top family resorts, top terrain parks, top “green” resorts – you name it. If a ski resort has it, there’s probably a ranking for it somewhere.The latest ranking to come out is the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition’s environmental scorecard, which it produces each year by giving grades – A, B, C, D and F – to ski resorts across the west for their environmental sensitivity.The ranking takes into account things like ski area terrain expansion – which it views as very bad – water conservation, conserving energy by avoiding new snowmaking, energy efficiency and other environmental practices. There are four main criteria: Habitat protection, protecting watersheds, addressing global climate change and environmental policies and practices.Both Vail and Beaver Creek received a B grade for the 2011 ranking, known as the Ski Area Report Card, but Vail Resorts doesn’t give the ranking much credit, good grade or not.”Vail Resorts does not participate in the group’s annual survey because we find it to be non-scientific and biased against the ski industry,” Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl said. “Traditionally, resorts lose points for the development of new ski trails, snowmaking expansions and/or any other related development projects. Vail Resorts remains committed to environmental stewardship through numerous programs at the resort and our support of community initiatives, with our mountain operations on public lands overseen by the U.S. Forest Service and their thorough regulatory processes and expertise.”Vail Resorts doesn’t participate in the survey, meaning the researchers at the Citizen’s Coalition have to gather the information from the public domain. Research Director Warren Rider said the ski company has participated in the past, but he showed the most recent participation from Vail Mountain as 2008. Rider said the first two criteria, habitat protection and protecting watersheds, is graded with information from the local Forest Service. The second two criteria, addressing global climate change and environmental policies and practices, is graded based on the surveys given to the ski areas, which Vail Resorts does not fill out.”I’m sure they feel like we’re meddlers, and that’s fine,” Rider said of Vail Resorts. “We, as an organization, believe the public has a right to know how any kind of industry operates on public lands.”While Vail Resorts discredits the ranking as unscientific, Rider defends it and said there are “a lot of really qualified scientists on our staff.””We don’t believe it’s unscientific,” Rider said. Breckenridge Ski Resort, also a Vail Resorts’ ski area, received a D grade this year because its Peak 6 terrain expansion proposal. Rider said the report card grades expansion so poorly because skier numbers throughout the last several decades don’t support it.”Skier numbers haven’t increased substantially over the last 10 years, but acreage has,” Rider said. Rider said the coalition recognizes the need for corporate competition, which is what it credits most expansion projects to, but it doesn’t make it an environmentally good thing to do, he said.But resorts don’t get penalized forever, Rider said. Eventually, the report card stops deducting points for things that happened far enough in the past. “We won’t hammer them forever on that,” Rider said of Breckenridge’s expansion proposal.Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.